Grand Manan moves on recycling lobster traps

GRAND MANAN — The Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic Canada (FGCAC) End-of-life Gear Management in New Brunswick report states “In 2019 the department of Fisheries and Oceans issued 1,620 lobster licences in New Brunswick. About 40,450 traps are replaced annually in New Brunswick.” One of the places that struggles with what to do with old wire lobster traps is the Village of Grand Manan.

Although new to Grand Manan council, as chair of the solid waste committee, Councillor Trish Toll has been involved with a project that has had huge impact. The FGCAC had a pilot project that Grand Manan council was able to take part in to recycle lobster traps for the first time

The traps were collected at the land transfer site.

“Everyone who had a trap on the island brought them,” Toll says. Specialized machinery then came during the first week of March to lift the traps and deliver them to a crushing machine. After crushing, the traps were packaged into one-tonne cubes, and 27 truckloads with 28 cubes on each were taken off island to American Iron and Metal (AIM) Recycling Atlantic in Saint John for recycling.

Sonia Smith, program/stakeholder manager for the End-of-life Wire Trap Management Program with FGCAC, confirmed some of the collected traps had been sitting for 25 years. She says the preferred goal for gear at the end of its life is to recycle it, so it’s not ghost fishing (continuing to attract marine creatures) or sitting on land being broken down by the sun into particles which can leach into the ground.

The work done was part of a pilot project offered to the Village of Grand Manan at no cost provided by the FGCAC through the Sustainable Fisheries Solutions and Retrieval Contribution Program (Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Ghost Gear Fund) with help from AIM. The pilot projects that ran in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are now completed. Smith says applications have been made for further funding for studies which would give the data that might permit the program to be further developed.

“We chose Grand Manan because they had such a large stockpile that had never been put in a landfill, but that they could not manage on their own.” says Smith “We paid a metal recycler who removed approximately 900 tonnes of product that was transported to AIM in Saint John.”

Smith says AIM is one of the few metal recyclers in Atlantic Canada that can shred and recycle the whole trap, the metal of which is then mixed with other steel and sold. “It’s sold to different manufacturers; it could end-up in cars, agriculture equipment, medical equipment. It’s sold mixed with other steel, all mixed together, and then given a second life.”

The life period of a lobster trap is difficult to determine, as it depends on whether it is used in water with rocky, muddy, or other terrain. In an email, Smith says “the industry replaces and produces on average 33,000 new PVC-coated wire lobster traps annually in New Brunswick and another 212,000 in Nova Scotia.”

Of the Grand Manan pilot project Smith said the baling machine “crushes and shrinks those traps to the least amount of size they can,” with a view to eliminating the carbon footprint as much as possible as during transportation off-island for recycling. “They did it in three weeks,” Smith says. “When I got the email saying they moved the last load, I thought ‘wow!’ It blew my mind.”

Now the lobster traps are cleared-up, “it’s left a big empty spot, I’m sure,” Toll says.

“I hope it (the pilot program) will become a regular feature. They’ll see if the project is feasible, once they know the final cost in the Maritimes. “We are glad that they (FCGAC) chose us for a testing site as we’re had quite a few traps and we’re one of the more difficult ones to get to.”

Smith writes the FCGAC is applying for funding for a feasibility study in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, “to confirm the infrastructure and logistics required to implement a permanent program to support the fishing and aquaculture industries.”

Toll is ready to get going with other environmental projects. “I would like to see the island be a lot more green,” she says. Toll is co-owner of Island Truck Repair, and has signed the shop up to have oil and anti-freeze bottles picked-up for recycling. She is in the process of ascertaining where provincial legislation stands on the subject, but she would like to see more shops sign-up to have their oil and antifreeze containers picked-up to divert them from the landfill. “I’d like to plan some workshops with local people to entice them to start saving used oil, even in their own homes,” Toll says.

Ideally, she hopes to see the island ban plastic bags. “Plastic bags make me crazy,” says Toll.

There is only a transfer site on Grand Manan, not a landfill. “All garbage is transferred off,” Toll explains. “The less we have to take away,” Toll says, “it saves money for ferry, gas, and tipping fees.”